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Oregano as a Culinary Herb and Natural Medicine

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We’ve been using oregano for cooking for as long as I can remember. But as a cure for cough? Not exactly a new claim but I decided to do my own research before jumping into the bandwagon.

Sprigs of fresh oregano and garlic cloves

It began this way. Everyone in my family caught a bug, it went around for a while and, as it did, we were all coughing. I posted a few photos on Instagram to reflect our condition. A friend — a fellow lawyer who is also an artist — suggested that I make and take oregano “tea”.

It wasn’t the first time I heard someone make that reference. Another friend — a former editor (when I was still writing for print media) and currently an advertising executive — said the same thing years ago. She described how their family yaya pressed oregano leaves and made them drink the extract when they had cough. It was bitter as hell, she said, and that’s why I never attempted to ingest oregano extract.

I mention the professional background of my two friends not to imply that I associate only with people from a certain “class” but, rather, to make it clear that all information I had received in the past about the medicinal value of oregano came from non-medical professionals like myself.

Oregano as a culinary herb

Oregano in pork stew

I love oregano — for cooking. I love it so much that, for years, we grew it in the garden.

I love adding oregano to tomato sauce and all tomato-based stews including pork and beans. And no paksiw na pata (sweet sour pork hock) tastes right without oregano.

But as a cure for cough? Okay, I’m a fan of herbal medicine. But I draw a line between mere belief and real evidence. When I recommended lagundi brew as a cure for hives and cough, for instance, I did so only after I have tested it myself.

But two people having tried oregano as cure for cough? People whom I wouldn’t accuse of being stupid? There has to be something there. So, I decided to do a little research.

Oregano as a natural medicine

Oregano has been used to treat an array of illnesses and conditions for such a long time that it is often listed among “ancient folk medicines”. In modern times, however, there has been no sufficient research nor conclusive evidence to show that oregano does work as a cure for various ailments.

Does that mean that the medicinal value of oregano is just old wives’ tale?

Let’s consider the “culture” of scientific study and research. These things cost a lot of money. Any study or research requires funding — often amounting to millions. Now, who would finance a study / research that can lead to the conclusion that people can treat so many ailments — including diabetes — with a plant that can be grown in a pot?

That’s literally a lifetime supply of free medicine.

And that should explain why there haven’t been enough studies and researches about the medicinal value of oregano. The usual funders for such studies — drug companies — have nothing to gain and billions to lose.

Where does that leave us consumers? Well, we’re placed in a position where we either try oregano (in “tea” form or otherwise) as a cure for cough (or some other ailment) and find out for ourselves if it works. And it’s important to remember that what works for one does not necessarily work for another. That’s true whether you’re ingesting a herbal brew or a tablet manufactured by a big pharma company.

Oregano growing in the garden

And, for goodness’s sakes, if testing oregano, go get the plant and resist the urge to take the convenient path by buying one of hundreds of “essential oils” in the market.

Beware of scammers who sell oregano (and oregano oil) as a cure-all for every imaginable ailment

With the high cost of traditional medicine, it is understandable why more and more people are willing to go back to “folk medicine” which costs anywhere from little to free. And there’s the added incentive that it’s about “going natural”.

But… Yes, there’s a BIG BUT. This trend about “going natural” has spawned a lot of businesses with, at best, shady claims.

In 2005, two Florida-based companies, Great American Products, Inc. (GAP) and Physician’s Choice, Inc. (PCI), were sued for multiple violations including a claim that “Ultimate Wild Oregano Oil and Super Wild Oregano Oil prevent colds and flu and, when taken orally, treat and relieve bacterial and viral infections and their symptoms.”

In 2014, the USFDA wrote a lengthy detailed letter to Young Living Essential Oils whose products include Oregano Oil. The USFDA cited legal violations committed by the company with claims such as:

“Ebola Virus can not live in the presence of cinnamon bark (this is in Thieves) nor Oregano.”

“ImmuPower is a blended oil containing (oregano, clove, frankincense, ravintsara, cistus, mountain savory and hyssop). Every single one of these individual oils has anti-viral properties.”

But isn’t it also true that companies such as the ones mentioned above are being targeted as a result of strong lobbying from big pharma companies who stand to lose so much business?

Yes, it’s possible. But we don’t know that for sure, do we? Better safe than sorry (and poorer). Go to the source. Get the plant.